Burn Chapel occupies a prominent place along the Main Road, close to the 578 Squadron Memorial. Since wartime days the strong links created between air force personnel and villagers has been maintained and Association members continue to include the Sunday morning service as part of the annual Reunion.
On Sunday 16 May 1999 the Association presented the Chapel with a Memorial as a permanent record of the time when over 2000 airmen and airwomen were encamped all round the village and a sober reminder that 219 of them flew out, never to return alive.
The only available wall space was the limited height above a back row pew and below street level window cill. This necessitated a design over six feet in length. The frame is of English oak set in stainless steel angle, with a black melamine faced backboard carrying ten individual brushed stainless steel plaques, each set proud and inscribed with twenty two names, with another, wider central plaque informing on 578 Squadron history.
At the end of 1943, mid point in the phase of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command activity known as the ‘Battle of Berlin’ the Halifax B Mk III heavy bomber fitted with Bristol Hercules TXVI radial engines, each with the increased output of 1675 horsepower, entered service with No.4 Group and 578 Squadron. These propelled the aircraft at a maximum speed of 277 mph at the service ceiling of 20,000 feet. a considerable improvement on previous machines. The Company were proud of this engine and offered a prize to the Squadron in 4 Group which returned the best engine maintenance record.
Wing Commander Wilkerson was well noted for his concern for the wellbeing of all airmen and airwomen serving at Burn and held regular meetings to resolve any difficulty. At one meeting the engine maintenance representative asked if those living over 200 miles distant, could have their occasional weekend pass extended from midnight Sunday to 0800 Monday, to make return train connections easier.
On receiving assurances that the work would not suffer, ‘Wilkie’ agreed but added the rider “I would like us to win the Prize offered by th Bristol Aeroplane Company to the squadron with the best engine maintenance record in 4 Group.”
After the war, the Company presented 578 Burn Association with this shield in recognition of the high regard it had for the standard of engine maintenance work, often in very difficult conditions.
The Prize was acknowledged with pride. One of the aircraftsman mechanics remarked “It is sad that ‘Wilkie’ did not survive the war and thus be able to accept this honour personally, as was our intention.”
The shield was displayed in the NAAFI at the Yorkshire Air museum Elvington for many years until retrieved by the association in poor condition, restored and framed. (More details about the shield here).
Display design and construction: Hugh Cawdron. Retrieval from YAM: Ian Taylor. Erection: The Holmes Family.